Guy Windsor: I’m here today with Gretchen Settle, who models, swordfights and makes stuff. You can tell when I grab stuff off the internet, can’t you? She is getting back into training after giving birth to, I must say, an incredibly adorable young sword person who looks very good with her little sword. So without further ado, Gretchen, welcome to the show.
Gretchen Settle: Hello. Hi. I’m glad to be here.
Guy Windsor: So, whereabouts in the world are you?
Gretchen Settle: So I am located on the East Coast in Maryland. So that nice little marshy Baltimore area of snow that we’ve not received.
Guy Windsor: I’ve only ever been there in the summer, and it’s miserable.
Gretchen Settle: Well, you know, it’s the place of many seasons. I actually originally came from Louisiana, so. So I came from like these rainy and then rainier seasons. It’s just the same hot all the way through. And then when we moved up to Maryland, that was my first experience with seasons. And it turned out we chose correctly because Maryland has, in fact, all of the seasons. And then, you know, it switches it up. Sometimes you have spring and then summer and then spring again and then fake summer and then surprise winter. So, yeah.
Guy Windsor: And you’re quite close to Washington, D.C. with like the Smithsonian Museum and whatnot. So you’re quite well situated.
Gretchen Settle: Yeah. All the things that are around here, driving distance. So that’s nice. Metro distance.
Guy Windsor: So how did you get into historical martial arts?
Gretchen Settle: Well, that’s actually really funny and kind of related to the modelling bit as well. I have a friend from high school who is a photographer who’s the person who originally asked me to start modelling for them, and they found the, I guess, advertisement on Facebook for MKDF and they’re like, hey, this sounds like you’re a nerd. The Venn diagram of jock/nerd is right there for you. That sounds like something that you would really enjoy and let’s do it together. And then they immediately left to go live in New York City. And I was there by myself, but I did it anyway. I think it’s really important to do things by yourself. And I showed up and the instructor at the time was Jessica Rozek, and she immediately could tell that I used to do like dance and theatre, which was hilarious. She was like, you make everything pretty. Stop being pretty or you’re going to break yourself. And I just kind of fell in love with it. I have a whimsical and romantic personality, and I loved the fact that it felt like I was becoming part of history. I am an English major. I read lots of fantasy books like every other, I feel like HEMA person is like Lord of the Rings, like, you know. And tons of things like that. And to me it was just such an interesting way to like fully immerse yourself in it. And from a history perspective, from a fantasy perspective, from the physicality of it. I was a horseback rider, I was someone into hiking. It kind of just mushed everything that I loved together into something completely different that I had never experienced before. And whether or not I was good at it, I was going to stay doing it and kind of just keep falling in love with it bit by bit. And then I met my husband through it and fell in love with it even more.
Guy Windsor: Okay. So you actually met the person you married at sword class? Excellent.
Gretchen Settle: Yes. It became very just tied to my life in really weird and strange ways. And just absolutely in love with everything about it. The idea of being able to immerse yourself that deeply in history is just so fun to me.
Guy Windsor: And so is MKDF Maryland Kunst des Fechtens?
Gretchen Settle: Yes, right. Yeah, that’s my club.
Guy Windsor: Yeah. So you’re doing mostly longsword?
Gretchen Settle: Mostly longsword, yes. So I’ve done ringen. Actually, I am probably a little bit better at ringen than longsword, strangely enough. I was able to, at the last Longpoint ever. I mean, hopefully not, I was able to place third in the featherweights for ringen. So yeah. I was excited. I was like, yes, finally have I found something. And then on my own have been looking a lot at Rossfechten because I mentioned previously I’m into horseback riding and, you know, never the time, never the money, but I spent about oh eight, eight, maybe more, years of my life as a stable hand growing up. And I worked on a farm and it’s just another way to layer all of those interests together.
Guy Windsor: Okay. So when it comes to mounted combat, the people I know who do mounted combat, none of them are in your area.
Gretchen Settle: No, there’s no one. It’s just me holding a candle. So I have attended one lecture type of riding. They had like a four day event in Pennsylvania. So I attended that, and that was great. But that was really fun. And I remember I was just I was plopped on a one eyed quarter horse, which was delightful and supremely unfair because everyone else had gaited horses.
Guy Windsor: For the benefit of the people who don’t know much about horses who may be listening, what’s the difference between a quarter horse and a gaited horse?
Gretchen Settle: Okay, so a quarter horse is just a breed of horse, a very popular breed of horse. They’re kind of like the golden retrievers of horses. They’re very beginner friendly. They’re very willing to work. And they have your standard gaits. Walk, trot, canter. And a lot of people find trotting to be very jiggly.
Guy Windsor: Can I just say, trotting for a bloke is a testicle crushing experience.
Gretchen Settle: Yes, unless you’re posting properly. Right?
Guy Windsor: But even if you’re doing it properly. I was learning to ride many, many, many moons ago. I was being taught by my girlfriend and my girlfriend’s mum and I was being taught on a Grand Prix level dressage horse. So there was nothing wrong with the horse, but that horse had the least comfortable trot in the world.
Gretchen Settle: That depends on breeding, that depends on the breed of course, if they’re gaited or ungaited.
Guy Windsor: And I was doing, I was doing what you call a posting trot where you rise up and sit down, rise up, sit down. And I was doing it correctly, and every now and then I would sit on my nuts to no good effect.
Gretchen Settle: Well, there are several types of posting. They should have switched it up on you.
Guy Windsor: We went and we found a male instructor because of course the ladies couldn’t advise because they’d never experienced this. So we went and found a male instructor who had a look and he was like, okay, yes, it happens. And after a while it just stops happening. You’re not doing anything wrong. You just have to get through it. So I was like, okay. And eventually I did. And now I don’t sit on my nuts anymore when I do what we call a rising trot on this side of the pond.
Gretchen Settle: Yeah.
Guy Windsor: But yeah, sorry, you were saying say the difference in a quarter horse. A quarter horse has the standard walk, trot, canter and gallop.
Gretchen Settle: Okay. It’s much more jiggly and then the gaited horses and they specifically had Tennessee Walkers, so they have different gaits instead of the trot per se. And the biggest difference is it’s how their feet are landing and that beat that’s being made. And it just creates, you know, to try to keep it simple. It just creates a difference in the amount of bounce that you’re going to have on that horse. So something like a you know, we have the Tennessee Walkers, but I think the biggest example I try to give people of like the gated horse is the Paso Fino. And if you look up online, you’ll see tons of gifs and video of this because their little legs are going very, very quickly, boop, boop, boop, boop.
Guy Windsor: They’re flapping from side to side.
Gretchen Settle: Yeah. And then the back of the horse though is very, very steady. Because they were bred for comfort, for pleasure, for nobility. And so yes, everyone else had Tennessee Walkers. And because I knew how to post and we were there a little bit later, so they were like, who has the most horse experience. And I got the one eyed quarter horse, which was great. He was fantastic and wonderful. And his name was Chance. I can’t remember the name of the actual event, but I remember the name of the horse. But yeah, it was a fantastic time. And so I decided to come back and to ask the barn that I had worked at if I could, as uncrazily as I could sound, if I could bring swords with me to my lessons. Because I grew up riding. But I grew up riding Western and I grew up in Louisiana. You know, rodeo and stuff is big. And my grandparents had horses and they just put us on the horse. And now you ride a horse, right? There’s no instruction. And then we moved to Maryland, which does have an equestrian scene, but it’s not the most accessible.
Guy Windsor: It’s more English.
Gretchen Settle: It’s more English, yes. And so my mom plopped me at the barn and I worked there. And when I was done cleaning 20 stalls, I could go out and I could ride. But there was no formal instruction. So as an adult, I’ve reached back out to them and I was like, hey, you know, I’d really love to formally learn how to ride. And if you would be so kind as to trust me to incorporate mounted combat and weaponry here look, there’s a cool book, would that be the not craziest thing to ask. And it turned out that the barn manager who is actually who my daughter’s named after, she immediately was like, you know what? Weirdest thing I have pictures of me doing sabre on horseback. So it’s not HEMA, it’s not Rossfechten. It was a different kind of thing. But she actually had taken some lessons and she was like, that’s amazing. I used to be able to go at like a full gallop and hitting hay targets. So anything you want to do at the barn, if you would like to build some targets and store them there, that kind of stuff, you would be more than welcome to. So yeah, we’ve been kind of working on it. I’m a perfectionist, so I don’t feel comfortable, you know, really going out instructing people. I don’t feel like I am the person for that. I feel like it should be a mix between actual horseback riding instructors and swords people kind of coming together. Because I feel that when you get people on thousand plus pound animals with weaponry, it should be as safely as possible. But yeah, it’s been kind of fun. I got some of my club mates involved and we’ve been trying to find days where we can all go up together and take lessons and bring the sabres.
Guy Windsor: So you’re basically starting a mounted combat club.
Gretchen Settle: Yeah.
Guy Windsor: Excellent, okay.
Gretchen Settle: Kind of.
Guy Windsor: I have an idea for you. You obviously have a little bit of imposter syndrome going on and you couldn’t possibly be the instructor for the mounted combat club. But what you can be and what you clearly are is the facilitator.
Gretchen Settle: Yes. That’s what I tell people. I enable things. I’m very good at chatting with people and I’m very good at making friends. And I told the club head whenever I was trying to gather an interest, I said, you know, I don’t feel like I am the best person for the job when it comes to feeling like I am instructor worthy, but I am very confident in my ability to make friends.
Guy Windsor: That is a superpower.
Gretchen Settle: But yeah, I try to bring that. I said if there’s anything that I could give to our club, it would be my ability to feel completely unembarrassed, to go up to people and say, hey, what is it you do? You know, is it something that you feel comfortable teaching? What’s over here? I have a different friend who came up to me and was like, hey, I have a connection at a winery that may or may not be interested in tournaments. Can you be a contact for that? And I was like, that’s really cool. And yet they’re called Fiore Winery. So of course, obviously everyone was like, oh, that’s kind of funny. So yeah, I’ve just kind of been making friends and taking notes and trying to try to see how I could push all those passions and friendships in HEMA into creating more and more interesting things. Maybe they’ll work out. Maybe in a couple of years you’ll see me stabbing things on horseback and not being embarrassed to post videos and pictures.
Guy Windsor: Speaking of videos and pictures, you do some modelling. The picture from your Instagram that I’m thinking of is the one with the helmet.
Gretchen Settle: Oh, that one. Absolutely. Oh, you’re going to you’re going to send a bunch of people to my Instagram aren’t you?
Guy Windsor: So tell us tell us a bit about the modelling and how it started and how it’s going. And what’s the deal with the helmet?
Gretchen Settle: Oh, yes. Okay. So and that’s specifically the one I think I have titled ‘Blossfechten’, isn’t it?
Guy Windsor: Yeah you have a helmet.
Gretchen Settle: Yeah. So as I said, the person who got me in the HEMA is the same person who got me into modelling. So fun coincidence. But I’m an artsy person. I’ve been to tons of art classes in college and whatnot. I like creating things. Anything at all. Painting, modelling, acting. Anything I can get my hands on that is creative, writing. And with modelling, I guess kind of the same way as with HEMA. I was like, I don’t know if I’m the right person for the job, but here I am. And it’s an opportunity and it’s really it sounds really fun. And I did it. And then I started getting more jobs and it’s almost it’s really hilarious to me because it’s with a bunch of different indie brands on the East Coast and they’re all alternative fashion. And I growing up was not very alternative fashion, but my best friend is, my best friend’s like super goth and I have friends who are punk. And then I’m over here just pink and with blonde hair and they’re like, no, go be goth in these pictures. Or more recently, a lot of them have had swords. It’s been a really big selling point to say you’re comfortable with being in the outdoors and being with weaponry. And also really strange because when I first brought swords on set for some of these fantasy garments, because a lot of them are, you know, ‘fashion chainmail’ is what I call it, or ‘fashion armour’ and brought in the swords. I would pose with them, but I would pose to HEMA. And so if you are on point or if your edge alignment is there when you’re modelling the sword is lost in the photograph.
Guy Windsor: It disappears. Sorry, by ‘on point’ you’re not talking about ballet, you’re talking about the point pointing towards the camera.
Gretchen Settle: Yeah. And so that was definitely an interesting learning experience because I was at the beginning, I was very, very much like, oh, I want to make sure that if I’m posing with swords, I’m doing something that is accurate and right and I have the right mechanics. And then immediately on set the photographer is, can you move it this way? You’re blocking your head, your head isn’t visible. So I guess, I mean, you have a bit of experience with stage combat, mushing the two together.
Guy Windsor: And so what this is reminding me of is I’ve done a lot of photoshoots for my various books. And what we have to do in the photo shoot is make sure everything is visible and make sure it’s correct. Making it so that everything is visible is easy and making it so that everything is correct is easy, but making it so that they are both visible and correct is fucking impossible.
Gretchen Settle: I call it the world’s worst yoga. You are so sore after a photo shoot where you are both trying to look good on the camera and make the swords look good and make your form look good and you’re holding the poses and you’re holding everything up for longer than you’d normally hold it up and the next day you’re just kind of like, oh. Okay, that was more of a workout to stand there and look pretty than I thought it was going to be.
Guy Windsor: Yes. So most of the work you’ve been doing, modelling wise, is sort of marketing photography for companies that make clothes.
Gretchen Settle: Yes. Though the specific picture that you’re referencing, though, was for a more artistic photographer. The same photographer who got me into doing modelling to begin with was like, hey, I’d like to do a few more artistic kind of fantastical elements. And I was like, okay, sure, we can go ahead and do that. And I had a buddy who had armour because I’ll get a little risqué, but I’ll keep everything PG 14. That’s what I tell everyone. If you’re listening to this and you heard implications about that photo, you’re like, I’m gonna go look this up: PG 14. Sorry to crush your dreams.
Guy Windsor: Can I just interject? We have had Ariel Anderson on here, who is a professional BDSM pornography model. So if people listening want the adult stuff, they need to go to the episode I did with Ariel and go look at her stuff. Your stuff is a bit more, shall we say, kid friendly.
Gretchen Settle: A little bit more, not all the way. But, you know, again, PG 14, that’s how I tend to keep all of my photography stuff. But the specific picture with the armour in it, it’s an armour from a friend because I don’t have any harness and I was like, oh, well, I think it would be really cool if doing this implied photo shoot if what we kind of used for cover would be armour because we had flowers on my face and the makeup was very kind of ethereal and everything’s in the woods. And I was like, it would be a little bit kind of fairytale-esque to incorporate all of these things. And so I had a friend who was putting together harness and I was like, hey, send me lend me some pieces for a photo shoot where I’m predominantly nude. And strangely enough, he was like, okay.
Guy Windsor: Well, why wouldn’t he?
Gretchen Settle: Yes, of course. And it’s so funny to me because that particular the photos that got used in that where I’m holding the helm, it’s so large. I mean, it’s made for him, but I’m just like literally I thought we were going to have a couple more armour pieces that we incorporated and we really didn’t need them because I could just curl up behind this.
Guy Windsor: Yeah. All the vital bits are hidden behind the helmet. It’s very tastefully done.
Gretchen Settle: I was like, that’s just like, amazing to me, and we had a whole pile of armour, off to the side and it kind of looked like I had lured a man to his death, off camera. Like I was looting everything afterwards.
Guy Windsor: So what sort of stuff do you make? You said you make all sorts of things and again, looking at your Twitter bio, you model, sword fight, and make stuff. What stuff do you like?
Gretchen Settle: You know, I think that just goes back to me being very creative and whimsical and passionate. I paint. I paint with watercolours, I paint with acrylics, I paint with digital means as well. I write. I’ve written poems and poetry and things for my college magazines and whatnot. And I’m still friends, actually, with a lot of my college professors from the English department and still try to write as often as I can. And then, I’ve been currently acting in a few different independent movies as well, all horror movies, strangely, apparently I die real pretty. And that’s been the weirdest and best compliment I’ve ever received is you die pretty. I just find it so much fun to be able to do all of those things. And I can incorporate HEMA into a lot of those things as well. In the horror movies I did the smallest of little tiny, pathetic stunt doubling for people and got to try to show someone how to do break falling and how to incorporate a little bit of ringen into some of the fight scenes safely and effectively so that I wasn’t actually going to be in harm’s way.
Guy Windsor: What are the movies called?
Gretchen Settle: So the one that’s out and about and the most popular, is called Bloody Summer Camp. It is a riff on 1980s slasher films. It is on Amazon.
Guy Windsor: Bloody Summer Camp. My 14 year old daughter is a big horror fan, so.
Gretchen Settle: If she likes old eighties slashers, then that is exactly why this is an homage to.
Guy Windsor: Extra points if people actually get like a knife into their head.
Gretchen Settle: Well see that, you know, spoilers. But she might really like my character then. However, it is rated R, my scene’s PG 14. Other scenes definitely not so much.
Guy Windsor: I’ll have to watch it with her and stand by with the pause button just in case. No, we tend to let our kids watch pretty much anything they like because I watched anything I liked when I was a kid and it didn’t seem to do me any harm. So I honestly the things that that are really upsetting are not usually the sex or the violence. It’s usually like the psychological horror stuff.
Gretchen Settle: Yes. When I was little. Oh, it was never anything like that that scared me. It was always things I couldn’t fight. If I couldn’t figure out a way to fight it, then I would be terrified. I watched Jurassic Park since I was like two years old. Favourite movie in the history of the whole world, Jurassic Park. And it never terrified me. But anything with ghosts suddenly or like that Chucky doll thing.
Gretchen Settle: I couldn’t figure out how I would kill it. I was like a dinosaur, like six year old me, a dinosaur. I could handle. Chucky. Mhm. Yeah.
Guy Windsor: Honestly, I would rather fight a dinosaur than Chucky.
Gretchen Settle: Yeah, I would too. I would. Hands down.
Guy Windsor: Because at least the dinosaur, if you cut his head off, it’s going to die.
Gretchen Settle: Mhm. Exactly.
Guy Windsor: That is a trick. I mean it’s difficult to do. Yeah. I saw Chucky in the cinema when it came out and that was a mistake.
Gretchen Settle: Yeah. I was always too afraid as a child. I was like, no, just the commercials would frighten me.
Guy Windsor: The thing that sort of gave me the idea to get you onto the show is that you are getting back into training after having given birth.
Gretchen Settle: Yes. My first baby.
Guy Windsor: Your first baby. And isn’t she adorable?
Gretchen Settle: She’s so long. She’s already like a third of my length. I’m like, Oh, wow. Well, her father’s very tall. And so I’m like, she’s going to be fourth grade and taller than me.
Guy Windsor: Oh, bless. My kids are now well, my eldest will turn 16 next month and my youngest turned 14 last month. So it’s been a long time since we had babies in the house. I’m actually really impressed that you managed to show up on time for this interview, because, like, when there are little ones around.
Gretchen Settle: That’s because her father’s home.
Guy Windsor: Okay. All right. So what did being pregnant and giving birth do to you as regards training?
Gretchen Settle: Well, you know, I was always someone who was a little bit more athletic than the majority, but not someone who is usually thought of thought of as like the bodybuilder, the super athlete. But I would run regularly. I would run up to five miles a day and sometimes ten miles a day on a weekend. And I would lift weights with my brother, who is a bodybuilder and that kind of stuff. And so I was in fairly decent shape, between that HEMA and horseback riding, which uses more muscles than people think. And then I broke my foot and then I sprained my knee. And then about as soon as those got healed up, I got pregnant and I immediately was sick. Just no other way to kind of split that up. I was horribly sick with morning sickness all the way into my second trimester.
Guy Windsor: My wife was horribly sick with morning sickness from pretty much the moment she got pregnant until the baby was out with both pregnancies.
Gretchen Settle: Yeah, people kept telling me it’ll be over after the first trimester. It’ll be done, it’ll get better. And instead, I kept getting worse and worse. And, you know, at one point, my husband was at work and I was having a miserable time of it. And I called Jess, the head of our club. We’re very good friends. She was a bridesmaid at my wedding. And I said, I need someone who’s available to try to go get something, anything to help me stop being sick. And she came over with a bag of goodies from CVS and she says she looks at me and she goes, oh, my God, I’ve never seen someone actually melting.
Guy Windsor: It’s really debilitating because if everything makes you nauseous, you can’t keep anything down. I’ve not experienced in myself, but I’ve seen it up close with my wife.
Gretchen Settle: The way I describe it, the best way I could describe it, was that I felt carsick and seasick when I was just standing upright. I just absolutely couldn’t for the life of me just move. I had to just lay down and stop moving. That carried on well into the second trimester for me. And it got to the point of where I had started losing a little bit of weight instead of gaining weight during pregnancy. And I was talking with my doctors about stronger medications to use. And at what point being sick did I need to go to the E.R. was the last, you know, serious conversation I had had with them, which I’d been sick for about like 10 hours when I made that phone call. And they were like, oh, we usually go for 24. And I was like ugh, no. And thankfully after it, once I hit the third trimester, it got so much better. But, you know, during that time I was getting bloodwork done and my levels were starting to be the smallest bit, not enough to, you know, be a worry, but the smallest bit off because I was actually starting to lose muscle mass and I couldn’t do anything without being severely fatigued. Thankfully, I was able to have that third trimester and be able to eat food. I think I lived off of cheese and apples. There’s a protein, there’s a fat, there’s the sugar.
Guy Windsor: There’s vitamins, minerals.
Gretchen Settle: And then I had her and I didn’t realise how much muscle mass I had before. I think I take I took it for granted. I didn’t think that I was that in shape. I think I felt like I was, you know, I’ve said before about imposter syndrome, I thought maybe I wasn’t doing enough. And then after I had the baby, I had physical therapy things that I was doing, very small exercises, stuff like that. And I remember doing, oh, I don’t even think it was full squats. I think it was five like half squats and my legs just shaking because I had absolutely nothing that I had previously.
Guy Windsor: You basically lost all your conditioning.
Gretchen Settle: I was never someone who could easily bulk up top. I never had a good time of gaining muscle in my arms or anything. And I feel like a lot of women kind of struggled to gain muscle in those areas. But I went back to weight lift for the first time after having a baby with some of my friends and my club mates. And I kept having to take weight off the bar and take weight off the bar and take weight off the bar until finally I was trying to do like a chest press with just the bar and I was shaking.
Guy Windsor: Oh God.
Gretchen Settle: They were like, it’s okay, you’re back. Woo! And I was just like, this is so overwhelming in a different aspect because I was very comfortable with my body in terms of gaining weight or losing weight. But I wasn’t prepared mentally to lose strength. I was completely unprepared for that. And it’s been very interesting and a little bit challenging to not be down on myself in terms of trying to get back to a level of strength and body composition’s so different. It feels so weird. Your balance is different whenever you have a different musculature and body composition.
Guy Windsor: And also maybe like eight kilos of mass left suddenly on one particular day. That is going to affect your balance a bit.
Gretchen Settle: It kind of puts you all the way back at being a beginner. But you know what? I think that almost helps take the edge off. I think being put back, it’s like a blank slate is what it feels like. In between getting injured and then getting pregnant. And then every, all of that happening, I wasn’t where I wanted to be in HEMA, you know, leading up to that. And then this moment, momentous occasion kind of happens and it sets me back down to zero. And now it’s kind of like, All right. Let’s go. Let’s do it. Why not?
Guy Windsor: And the thing is, you have all the excuses in the world now.
Gretchen Settle: Yeah, it’s great. No one can come after me and go, you suck. I had a baby.
Guy Windsor: If you approach it this way, it will get rid of the fear of failure, that has always been holding you back.
Gretchen Settle: And I think that’s, you know, something I struggle with in all aspects of what I do is maybe not the fear of failure so much, but need, this all or nothing need of having this perfectionistic quality. And I think I come off as very unserious to a lot of people because I do have so much fun in everything that I do and I do love everything so much. And I think people, when you come from that kind of almost whimsical nature of things, people tend to discredit it as not being quite as serious about the stuff. But I am and I have this horrible burning need to make sure that I am not only proficient in what I do, but good at it and that I’m doing it to the best of my capabilities, whatever the best is, I don’t know. I’ll never know. I won’t know until I’m dead. That was my best. That’s going to be on my grave: “That was my best.”
Guy Windsor: So what’s been the most helpful to you in recovering and getting back into things?
Gretchen Settle: You know I think in recovery, and I’m just so thankful to everyone around me for it. The thing that has helped the most is having a husband who is supportive, having a husband who took off paternity leave. It’s dumb luck, support and good genetics. That’s it.
Guy Windsor: So we can’t do anything about that dumb luck and we can’t do anything about the genetics, but the support is something that we can affect. I did my best to be the supportive husband. I once calculated I probably changed about 8000 nappies in my life. So I’m properly hands on. My wife could go away for a weekend with our friends and I had the babies and all of her friends would check in with me like Guy, everything alright?
Gretchen Settle: And we had tons worried about it. I had so many people who would ask me, is he going to be okay?
Guy Windsor: He’s an adult and a parent.
Gretchen Settle: He’s not a child. He’s a full grown person. It’s kind of that double standard with men. And I had a lot of people who didn’t realise that he was going to get paternity leave because of America. That’s kind of a toss-up if you’re going to.
Guy Windsor: Now, I had my kids in Finland. The thing is though, that I work for myself. So the only person who could deny me paternity leave would be me. So that was never really an issue. And yeah, I took off a lot of time for various reasons with the kids.
Gretchen Settle: I had 12 weeks of leave and then he had four weeks.
Guy Windsor: That’s not a lot.
Gretchen Settle: No, no, it’s not. And so, those first four weeks, him being able to stay home and really help out so that I truly got to rest and to sleep and to recover. I think that’s really what set us up for success. And then on top of that, everyone that I’m friends with, was really, really great about asking what I needed and then delivering on that, right? So instead of just showing up or instead of assuming things it was a really wonderful example of everyone coming together and being like, no, what do you need? What would you like? And I was able to say, oh, well, I just kind of need space here. It’d be so great if you could bring some groceries or walk the dog or something, something to that effect and, you know, and then I have again, like I said, my brother’s a body builder. I have other friends that are very athletic and sporty. And I think during my pregnancy when I was still super duper confident that I was going to be able to work out the entire time, I had reached out to Jess Finley and asked her for advice on staying active before I got slammed with all the sickness. I got to have all of that so that I was able to fully understand what changes in my body were happening, how to most effectively utilise my body during pregnancy, childbirth, postpartum, and how to take care of myself and pace myself in a way that was going to make sure that I did not injure myself further. Or make sure that I was, you know, doing everything to allow for the recovery because, you know, your abdominals are completely… you can’t bend. It makes sense you can’t bend, but I didn’t realise how much not bending was going to be a thing. And then, you know, you have the baby, suddenly you can bend again and it’s like, oh, I can touch my toes. You know, having all of that, I think, is really what gave me the best, most positive experience and coming back and even now, the club’s always like, well, when are you going to come back to club? What are you going to do this? And you know, I’m like, oh, it depends on child care. They’re like, oh, bring the club. We’ll pass the baby to whomever. You know, you fight, we’ll hold the baby. It’s fine. It’s a done deal. And you know, that kind of support and just familial bond with everyone is really what makes it seem like a tangible goal. It doesn’t seem outlandish to want to get back into everything.
Guy Windsor: Are you currently training with swords regularly?
Gretchen Settle: So I’ve done a little bit at home. I’ve tried to start getting into doing like drills and stuff like that whenever the weather’s not completely awful because our ceilings aren’t quite high enough. And then the next goal is to really get back to going to the club. Now that the baby’s a little bit older, she’s four months old now, so we don’t have to worry so much about outdoor cooties and trying to figure out the best way to get child care so that we can get back into the swing of things. Pun intended, unintended.
Guy Windsor: If you both if you both go to the same sword class, you both go, one of you can hold the baby while the other one trains. I’ve had parents doing that in my classes. And what always happens is I come over and I take the baby and I let the class take care of itself. Because I am nuts for babies, it’s holding a baby, particularly when they’re really little. I’ve never injected heroin into the base of my skull, but I imagine that’s what it would feel like.
Gretchen Settle: And, you know, the best bit is now she’s starting to do that little baby laugh. I’ve got like the uninhibited belly laugh, baby laugh, kind of chuckle. And to me, like, that’s what that does to me. It’s so unabashed. Everything they have is in that little chuckle. And I’m like, I wish I could laugh like that. What will it take? But yes, that’s our plan is to be able to just pass her back and forth like a little baby hot potato and I keep telling my husband to choose tournaments, because once you sign up for a tournament, that’s it. That’s the goal. It’s on the calendar and it kind of gives you a little bit of structure.
Guy Windsor: You’re in Maryland, right? So you should be coming to Lord Baltimore’s Challenge in July.
Gretchen Settle: I can. I did. I actually did the last time I was there. It was very hilarious because I do not fight with the rapier. I have done very little with rapier. I’ve fought in heels whenever I was playing around with other people who knew what they were doing. And I got there and they were short a person and they were like, hey, we need a body in order to make pools run smoothly. Your body. And then I kind of got voluntold to fight and I fought against people who were wildly wonderful fencers. Joe Lilly, I think. Yeah, he was in my pool and that was the first time I had ever actually fought with a rapier. This is fine. It’s good.
Guy Windsor: Swords are swords.
Gretchen Settle: The pointy end goes one way.
Guy Windsor: And you defend yourself with your blade and you poke them with your blade.
Gretchen Settle: Cliff notes. That’s all you need. That’s it, that’s it. And so they were like, are you going to be able to do this? And I was like, well, I wasn’t told to win. And I will give it my all. And I did. And, you know, it was actually, I think, one of the coolest experiences going in to something like that with having no real knowledge previous to how to use that weapon, because I started off with just complete and everyone in that pool was fantastic. They were so generous with advice and they still completely demolished me, but they were great about it. And they gave me tips and advice and spoke to me as I was doing things and I wish I’d had someone just video the entire thing from start to end because I started off just absolutely nothing. And then at the very end, I was actually kind of grasping some of them, some of the techniques, I was parrying. I was making things work and actually managed to score points. And it was just this really cool kind of metamorphosis over the course of one tiny pool in this tournament.
Guy Windsor: So you got totally slaughtered.
Gretchen Settle: Oh absolutely. But I loved it. Story of my life. Sometimes I feel like in HEMA you have to have a good butt kicking, whether it’s kicking butt or your butt being kicked. I feel like it has to happen sometimes and is such a good learning experience, though, with all of these wonderful events.
Guy Windsor: If it’s done in the right environment.
Gretchen Settle: Yes, yes, yes. And you know what? It honestly, it totally was. And I was just so, so proud of from nothing to being able to actually get a point on someone, that was awesome. It was just super fun. And so yeah, Lord Baltimore’s Challenge, that would be a good one to go up to. Husband is better with rapier than I am. That’s it’s more of his thing. He’s done a bit well.
Guy Windsor: I’m signed up to be there this July.
Gretchen Settle: Oh good for you. So we have to go so that we can meet and bring the baby.
Guy Windsor: And bring the baby. Yeah. I’m not worried about you and your husband. It’s like no, bring the baby. As long as the baby’s there we’re fine.
Gretchen Settle: We’ll bring Holly. She has her little tiny sword, her tiny sword toy. She was gifted from the club. She can go up there, get that dose of seratonin.
Guy Windsor: All right. So I don’t normally discuss my guests underwear on the show. Let me just get out there to start with. But one of the pleasures of running a podcast is looking through my guests’ published stuff, doing a bit of research and I came across a picture of a garter. Would you care to tell us the story of the garter?
Gretchen Settle: Oh, my goodness. Okay, so, um, Travis and I got married after we had been together for almost as long as I’d been in HEMA. We started dating about a year after I was in HEMA and Travis Mayott. Some people would probably recognise his name. We got together and then we eventually decided to get married and the pandemic was in full force, so we wouldn’t have wanted to do a big wedding anyways, but we definitely couldn’t invite everyone that we wanted to invite because of that. And to be honest, we were probably one step out the door from just eloping. People should be just happy there was a physical wedding. I don’t quite know wedding traditions where you’re from or if they do a garter toss. It sounds to me it sounds like a very an American thing.
Guy Windsor: Not normally, I’ve caught two garters in my time, but only from American brides.
Gretchen Settle: Yeah. At first wasn’t really going to do a garter toss. We’re not super traditional and I was like we don’t need to do it. There’s a bunch of like little Louisiana traditions that I ended up nixing because there just wasn’t enough people from that culture to really make it make sense. And then I got a really cheeky idea that I hadn’t given my husband a wedding gift, and I thought it would be kind of really funny if during the garter toss without his knowledge, I had a knife on my thigh in a garter as a gift. This is before I bought the dress and I started thinking of different knives that would be fun. And I was like, oh, well, maybe I could get him like a parrying dagger for rapier. But then I was like, oh, he never utilises it when he fights anyways, that’s not his style.
Guy Windsor: And it’s going to take up a lot of space on your leg.
Gretchen Settle: Exactly. And then I was like, maybe a rondel or a dirk. I just trying to think of like HEMA related things since that’s how we met and I thought it’d be very cute. And then I bought the dress and the dress was very tight and I was like, well, there’s no way I’m going to be hiding any of that under the dress. And so I found this lovely little tiny knife that is only about three inches long. It’s very tiny. And it had Damascus steel and it was just very cute. And the tiny little scabbard that came with it was his favourite colour, cobalt blue. And I had the guy who forged it, the blacksmith, who is very confused because he was not American and had no idea why I wanted to hide a knife under a dress. English was also not his first language. So I was trying to explain this and he was just like, he is marrying someone very interesting.
Guy Windsor: Where was the smith from?
Gretchen Settle: Oh goodness. I think he was from the Ukraine, I believe. I found him on Etsy, and I had him put all my love on the tiny little blue scabbard and it barely fit, but he made it work. And he was like, is this a promise or is this a threat? Like, what is it? And I was like, yes, and so I spoke to one of the designers I had worked with because I was like, well, I could just put this on a normal garter. But while we’re out here, let’s have fun. And so I spoke to one of the designers that does a lot of fashion armour pieces. Her line is called It is Known, and she does a lot of scale mail, a lot of chain mail fashion, tons of fashion pieces that are just done.
Guy Windsor: Ren fair kind of stuff.
Gretchen Settle: Yes. And I reached out to her and I said, listen, I want to have a garter made out of chainmail to hold up a dagger that is going to be hidden under my wedding dress, that has to be able to get on and off easily because during the ceremony, I can’t have it on my leg because I don’t know how well it’s going to be hidden. And then very quickly after the ceremony, before the garter toss, me and the photographer are going to sneak away, slap it on, come back out and surprise my husband. And she did. She was super on board with that. She was like, this is the most hilarious thing I’ve ever heard. Please get pictures. We did. They’re wonderful. Travis’s face in them is hilarious. And she made this very beautiful chain mail made to measurements garter that supported the weight of the tiny little dagger perfectly. When it was time me and the photographers snuck out, put it on the leg, and the dress hid it perfectly. You cannot tell in some of these pictures that I have a dagger. You know, it’s a very form fitting dress that you can’t tell I have a tiny little three inch blade on my leg at all. And I’m like, that’s amazing. Like, you can hide so many things. How many other weapons can I hide in a tight dress? And so, I had a separate garter because I knew with all the HEMA people there that as soon as he pulled a blade out from my skirt, they’d be like, oh, do we get to keep the blade if he’s tossing that? So I had a separate one that had a little dagger charm on it for tossing.
Guy Windsor: Oh that’s nice. Who caught it?
Gretchen Settle: I think it was one of his groomsmen who caught it. I think it was his buddy who actually did recently get married this year.
Guy Windsor: So it works.
Gretchen Settle: Yeah, but it was it was quite funny. I was cracking up and he had no idea he touched the chain mail first.
Guy Windsor: And he was like, what the hell?
Gretchen Settle: It was great. He was like, what is going on under there? He told me he didn’t know what it was supposed to be at first because I wasn’t expecting to feel chain mail. And I couldn’t keep a straight face. I was chuckling. I was laughing too hard.
Guy Windsor: So interesting choice of underwear, chainmail garter with a little dagger on it, which is a present for your husband. Okay, you need to send me some pictures so we can stick them in the show notes.
Gretchen Settle: Oh, yes, yes.
Guy Windsor: A surprising number of my listeners don’t do Facebook or Instagram or any of that sort of stuff. So we’ll need to actually put the pictures in the shoe notes.
Gretchen Settle: So anything that’s on my Instagram, anything that’s on my Twitter is all very public facing. And so you can download it from there, whatever you need. If I put it out on the Internet specifically, you know, in a professional sense of being out in the Internet, there it goes, there it lives.
Guy Windsor: So I have a couple of questions that I ask all of my guests towards the end. Or all of my guests who consent to those particular questions. Some people duck them for one reason or another. What is the best idea you haven’t acted on yet?
Gretchen Settle: In what context? In general life?
Guy Windsor: How you interpret the question is as interesting to me as the answer.
Gretchen Settle: You know, I think that there is a ton of them. Again, I think my biggest issue, my biggest problem is I hold myself back all the time, because I have this need of everything being just so and just perfect before I act on anything. As well as, you know, time and money. I always have either enough time or I have enough money. I never have both at the same time. And currently I’ve been finding myself with more and more opportunities amongst other creative individuals to be able to do more and more creative things. And I ask myself what to do with that. And so I have definitely, in the HEMA sense, I have a couple of friends that I’ve spoken to and talked with about if there was anything that they would put together in videos and things like that that I could help them get started or put together, what would we do? And so there’s been a little bit of talk about that. I would love, love, love, love to have all of the time and money in the world to put together an accessible Rossfechten program on the East Coast. If I could do that.
Guy Windsor: I was thinking when I asked that question, I thought we’re probably going to head towards the mounted combat.
Gretchen Settle: You know, it’s so hard to find stuff like that that’s accessible to people and it’s not something that you can do in a one and done lecture. It’s not that you can learn in a weekend, not truly and not safely anyways. But you know, horses are expensive. Learning to ride horses are expensive, horses in general, upkeep expensive.
Guy Windsor: I have a suggestion. I’m learning to fly aeroplanes. If you fly planes, horses are cheap. So what you should do is you should get everybody to have a go at a flying lesson first. So their price anchoring is set at aviation levels and then riding looks affordable.
Gretchen Settle: And you know what. I’ve got about three people consistently working with me on stuff in our club. And, you know, lessons and arenas can only hold so many people. It’s not like we could realistically have 30 people at the same time doing anything. It has to be very small, compact. And so, you know, getting them all together in itself has been wonderful, getting them consistently going whenever we’re able to. Of course I couldn’t do anything while I was pregnant and that’s put a pin in it. But then also there’s been lots of talk about if I did buy a horse, would they be comfortable leasing that to offset costs so that we’d have more access? What would that entail? And then the barn itself, what resources they’re willing because you’re going to through a third party, you want to be respectful. You want to make sure that you’re not going to step on any toes. You want to make sure insurance is good. So, yeah, it’s just kind of trying to find the right balance with it all. I have so much stuff. I need an editor. I need someone to manage me, to edit me and to be like, focus on that.
Guy Windsor: So what you need then is a coach.
Gretchen Settle: Yeah, I guess so. Sure. I’ll go with a coach.
Guy Windsor: Yeah, because some people have no idea what to do and that’s a problem. Others have so many things that they want to do, the difficulty is choosing the right one.
Gretchen Settle: Yes, right. That’s exactly where I am.
Guy Windsor: Yeah. Okay. And there are coaches who can help with that. And there are also techniques for it. I was recently choosing which of the four book projects I should actually just get on with and there was no way to choose between them with any kind of rational basis. Because you can never tell how well a book is going to do anyway, and you can never tell how long it’s going to take. And there’s just all these variables and there’s just no way to know, right? So what I do is I get a pendulum. So anyway, actually this was a little penknife on a piece of string and you take any two of them and you do like an elimination round. So what you do is you, is you say book A or book B? If it’s book A it goes clockwise and book B, it goes anticlockwise. So you hold the pendulum so it’s still and you close your eyes and think about those two projects and trying to choose between them. And eventually the pendulum will start swinging in a circle. And that gives you your answer. So then the next two. And then then they trade off against each other and eventually you get to win it. It’s just like running eliminations in a fencing tournament. And yeah, so that’s how I chose the book I’m currently working on, which is not the book I would probably have chosen if I just thought about it. But it seems to be working.
Gretchen Settle: I’m got to try that. I’m going to try to narrow it all down, find my focus.
Guy Windsor: Yeah. And it’s useful to be able to just the skill of casting complicated decisions as yes/no questions. That by itself is quite useful. Because most things in life are not yes/no, they are varying degrees of maybes. And just clarifying things down to a simple do I do this or do I do that? That’s that by itself is part of the process of narrowing down and making the choices. Might be useful.
Gretchen Settle: So I got to try it. I’ve got to try it.
Guy Windsor: Okay. So we need to find your coach. Well, try the pendulum thing first. And then if you can’t, then come back to me and we’ll find you a coach.
Gretchen Settle: Love it.
Guy Windsor: Okay, my last question. Somebody gives you $1,000,000 or some random sum of money. It’s imaginary money so you have as much as you want to spend improving historical martial arts worldwide, how would you spend it other than setting up a riding school in Maryland?
Gretchen Settle: Let’s see. Oh, man. I think what I would do and I’ve thought a bit about this back and forth as I’ve gotten, again, more contacts and stuff. But I can remember at one point having a conversation with another fighter who does a bunch of creative things about they wanted to kind of do like a fighting road trip kind of stuff where you go and you learn from a bunch of different people. And now that I know more people who do videography and production and stuff like that, I kind of think it would be really fun to go and video it and try to make it where people can experience things outside of their club that maybe they wouldn’t have experienced before and make it where it was, again, more accessible, more easy to be able to do that. And some people will hate this, some people will be like, oh my gosh, no, HEMA has been growing and that has been the cause of conflict A or conflict B or whatever. But honestly, I’d love to do something that lets everyone shine, let everyone from different clubs and who study different techniques and different weapon systems and different time periods, give them their moment to shine. Because I truly love whenever I get to hear someone talk about something that they’re currently working on and they’re so passionate. And I think a lot of people are like, oh no, you know, I just talk and I’m a nerd and I ramble. I love it. I absolutely. And enamoured with people who are just showing how much they love HEMA. And I think if I were able to give anything back to the community, it would be using, as you put it, my superpower. That was such a nice way to put it. I had someone previously at an event says Social Energy Succubus. I got it on a t shirt because but, you know, if I could use any of my HEMA talents, using them to showcase people and to be able to make that more reachable to a broader base.
Guy Windsor: That’s exactly what this podcast is for.
Gretchen Settle: I know, so we are doing it and it cost me nothing. See, look, I think that would be amazing. And you know, I love these kinds of things so much.
Guy Windsor: So what would you do with it? The money?
Gretchen Settle: What would I do with it? I would use it in production. I don’t know if I would spend it personally. I would use it to help other people be able to reach farther with their voices, to showcase how everyone’s…
Guy Windsor: How?
Gretchen Settle: Oh, that’s difficult. Maybe do a video series? I have some current people I’m talking to that have the ability to put stuff up on Amazon. They already have all of that worked out. You know, maybe take that friend who wanted to do that road tripping thing. We go, we film it, we put it up on Amazon, people can watch it. That would be super cool. Again, I never know if I’m the right person for that, but I feel like I can talk to all the right people.
Guy Windsor: How does that help historical martial arts?
Gretchen Settle: Making it accessible, making other people fall in love with it. Let me try something. Let me let me try to explain it a different way. Oftentimes when I see people talk about historical martial arts online and in discord and on Facebook and Twitter and whatnot, I am being shown a lot of people arguing back and forth, back and forth about everything. And I would really love to help it in a way where it was more showcasing everyone’s joy in those discussions. Does that make sense? And the way that I think that would help everything or showcase martial arts more, help it grow is that when people truly find their passion in something, when people fall in love with martial arts, with HEMA, with the academic side of things, I feel like when I watch someone do that, then they really start dedicating themselves in a completely different way to kind of unlocking all of those things in HEMA that people keep searching for, right? Everyone’s trying to interpret the text, everyone’s trying to find new texts, everyone’s trying to do their best at tournaments. And I think that showcasing more things would inspire more people to do that more. And I mean, that’s the only thing I can think of that I can do. I don’t think that I am the best person to be out there hitting the books. I’m not the best fighter. I’m not the best academic. But I do so truly and wonderfully love martial arts that the only thing I could think of that would be me helping the community grow would be trying to come up with different ways to foster inspiration and ingenuity and let everyone who is so good at those things shine.
Guy Windsor: I’m struggling to find a practical application of that.
Gretchen Settle: Me too. That’s my problem. I don’t know. I don’t know. The idea of using money for that, I don’t know. Fund tournaments, fund people’s adventure, you know, fund people who have been looking at things from an academic sense. Get more people the ability to read. You know, I see a lot of people who look at academia and they’re intimidated by it. And perhaps, you know, trying to find a way to make that less intimidating, trying to make it where it’s something people want to get more interested in. Man, you took away my answer with the Rossfechten. I don’t know what I would do with $1,000,000.
Guy Windsor: Okay, you can spend $1,000,000 on your riding school. That’s fine, if you prefer, but maybe some of it on like a video diary of the processes of how students come in and they train and they get better.
Gretchen Settle: Yeah. I just want to make things as accessible as possible so that we could keep growing and keep learning and keep doing things. That’s all I got. I wish I could be more profound for you.
Guy Windsor: Brilliant. Thanks so much for joining me today, Gretchen. It’s been lovely to meet you.
Gretchen Settle: Yeah, it’s been wonderful to meet you as well.